TV Recap: Mad Men, ‘Time & Life’

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Time & Life PLOT SUMMARY:

Roger (John Slattery) gets a disturbing piece of news – McCann-Erickson is dissolving the company. Ted (Kevin Rahm), Don (Jon Hamm), Joan (Christina Hendricks), and Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) all go on the offensive looking to secure conflicting accounts that they can take to their West Coast office. Meanwhile Peggy (Elisabeth Moss), after a rough day dealing with kids, makes a shocking confession.

The Cameos: Bruce Greenwood, returns for a brief moment. Alison Brie makes an extended cameo as Pete’s ex, Trudy.

Photo Credit: Justina Mintz/AMC
Photo Credit: Justina Mintz/AMC

Favorite Performance: Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olsen. Finally, after all these seasons, Peggy addresses her child with someone in the office — Stan (Jay R. Ferguson). This is probably the best Peggy moment in recent series memory. For years Peggy has big moments, but they’re usually either a flustered and frustrated foot stamp of female empowerment (usually at Don), or a nervous, hopeful, yet lack self-confidence moment of achievement (usually inspired by Don). This time we get neither, we get the Peggy Olsen that has been locked away from years. Elisabeth Moss does a beautiful job of unfolding this performance, taking us through a gamut of emotions. Yet, there’s no volatile roller coaster, it’s a methodical, realistic confession. You just feel the pain, remorse, frustration, sorrow, and regret as it oozes out of every word. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for Peggy, a Don-less moment, a moment where we all talk about the elephant in the room. It was a moment of catharsis that everyone seemed to need, especially a character so long maligned by repetitive writing.

The Little Thing We Loved: There was a number of great, small moments. First, Lou (Allan Havey) calling up Don and telling him to kiss his ass because Scout’s Honor has been picked up by the creators of Speed Racer. Lou is such a miserable and easily despised character, and he went out in true ‘Lou’ fashion – being a jerk. However, this was a nice little bow on a ludicrous little storyline. Then Kenny (Aaron Staton) gets his final farewell, telling Pete and Roger he won’t save the day for them. This character needed a nice bow on it, one last moment of vengeance for years of being kicked around, and it was nice, sweet moment. It was also a moment of foreshadowing that this latest coup by the Sterling Cooper posse was probably not going to work out.

Mad Men, Time and Life
Photo Credit: MIchael Yarish/AMC

The Supporting Scene Stealer: Vincent Kartheiser as Pete Campbell. Pete, much like Peggy, has been maligned by one-note writing. Pete went from the show’s main villain to a recurring comedic character — still a jerk, but at least we could laugh at him. In this episode we see Pete as a team player, a husband, and believe it or not, a friend. His scenes with ex-wife Trudy are fantastic, and give us a little hope that these two might reunite. Also, the boarding school scene, where Pete knocks out the headmaster is both a hilarious moment and a nice piece of revenge for Pete who got knocked on his ass by Layne (Jared Harris) years earlier. Ironically, Harris directed this episode. However, it’s Pete’s moment in the cab which leads us to…

The Best Part of the Episode: It’s such a minor scene, but the Pete and Joan cab ride is a great moment. When Pete looks at Joan, and honestly (albeit drunkenly) says, ‘They don’t know what they’re dealing with’ — it’s a great moment. Pete, for one of the first times in series history, shows a moment of unselfish gratitude and honesty. There’s no motive for him to say anything to Joan. In fact, it would’ve been vintage Pete for him to say something completely sexist, condescending, or rude. This time however, he affirms Joan. He tells her that she is worth something, she’s an equal to all the powerful men of Sterling Cooper, and McCann.

The Part We Could’ve Done Without: We’re not letting this Diana storyline go, I see.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of AMC
Photo Credit: Courtesy of AMC

Final Thoughts: ‘Time & Life’ is probably one of the best episodes of Season 7. It took the classic Mad Men storyline and turned it on its head. We’ve seen the ‘let’s save the company by starting a new one’ three or four times at least. While it was exciting to see Don and company trying to get businesses on their side, it was a little too been there, done that, so it was nice to see the plan blow up in there face. However, it wasn’t just the business plan that blew up – they also lost their staff. They aren’t buying into the dream like they did in the past, because the dream is just for the higher ups, and not for the everyday people. Don, Pete, Ted and Roger are all getting dream gigs, but the artists, receptionists and secretaries are most likely out the door. The higher ups have consistently been lousy to the support staff (usually for comedic effect), but now it’s coming back to haunt them. Now, everyone walking out in unison was a little unbelievable, but it was a nice dramatic touch. ‘Time & Life’ is a terrifically acted, directed and written episode – a must-watch, especially for those who’ve been lukewarm on this season.

Predictions: We head into the final episodes with the company now working inside the biggest corporation they’ve ever been in (except for Ted). Of course, this being Mad Men, things are going to go awry. Don, most likely, will be fired from McCann, or quit, and then will leave us, with that classic Don stare as he starts a new chapter of his life, maybe with that waitress Diana. Roger spoke about death and having no male heir. I’ve been saying this for a while, but Roger Sterling might not make it out of this series alive – whether by natural causes or by his own hand. Joan and her new man seem to be on a nice track, and hopefully this will be her end game. Three episodes remain and this series needs to really hit home runs like this one from here on out.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Mad Men airs Sundays on AMC

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Bill Bodkin is the Owner, Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Pop-Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He is beyond excited that Pop-Break will be six years old in 2015 as this site has come a long, long way from the day he launched in it in his bachelor pad at the Jersey Shore. He can be read every Monday for the Happy Mondays Interview Series as well as his weekly reviews on Law & Order: SVU, Mad Men and Hannibal. His goal, once again, is to write 500 stories this year (a goal he accomplished in 2014). He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @PopBreakDotCom
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Bill Bodkin is the owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites